Am I done? Is it finally over? If you’re asking that question, then you’re probably in the middle of a seriously threatening boss fight. It’s usually by the end of a game when things start ramping up, and you’re realising just how much of a challenge the boss is proving to be.
How many times have you thought you’d finally gotten that boss dead in the ground, and they rise up again for another round? On the flip side, how many times were you expecting the big baddie to appear, and they’re nothing but a withered shell of their legend? Fake-out bosses can be great fun for twisting your expectations when executed correctly.
10 Monster Hunter Rise – Primordial Malzeno
The Monster Hunter games are famous for having an ending that isn’t actually the ending but the beginning of the second half of the story. It’s a well-worn tradition at this stage, carried into not just the base Monster Hunter Rise but its expansion Sunbreak as well.
However, it even extends to the free updates, culminating in Primordial Malzeno. This version of Malzeno is terrifying, moving at lightning speed with deadly precision. Except as you fight it, it starts fighting itself, too. As you weaken them, the Qurio takes over, hurting Malzeno while they enter into a rage. In fact, you even finish the fight by rescuing Malzeno rather than hunting them.
9 Devil May Cry 5 – Urizen
Like most character action games, Devil May Cry is famed more for its characters and bosses than anything to do with its storytelling. To its credit, DMC has always known its characters well enough to form an enjoyable story out of them, and DMC 5 does this to the extreme.
You start the game battling against Urizen, a boss you are intended to lose against. Except if you win, you beat the game, just like that. However, Urizen is also fought later in the story, and this time, is revealed to actually be Vergil, who then becomes the antagonist from that point on. Urizen is a fake-out, no matter what angle you face him from.
8 Pokemon Ultra Sun And Ultra Moon – The Champion
A good fake-out requires some context for the player to be following so that their expectations can be played with effectively. Pokemon games in this regard are pretty formulaic, with most of their surprises fairly obvious from the beginning to anyone with experience in the series.
There are a few exceptions, but Ultra Sun and Moon play with the idea in a humorous way. In the originals, you face Professor Kukui as Champion. In the Ultra versions, you’re given no reason to expect this to change, neither within the game nor based on tradition. So imagine your surprise when your rival Hau is revealed to have already become Champion before you.
7 Nier Automata – Eve
It’s a given when you play anything from Yoko Taro that what you’re witnessing is likely not the reality of the situation and is almost always a misdirection. Everything is a metaphor, quite literally. So when you play Nier Automata, a game about what forms humanity while you face down the final boss called Eve, you should expect more to be going on.
And shockingly, there is. Then you face Eve a second time and think…wait, are they really the final boss? Then, finally, you get to Route C and realise that they are not the final boss of the whole game, but what they represent is the catalyst for the rest of the game. Subtext is for cowards.
6 Sekiro – Genichiro
When it comes to great boss fights, FromSoftware is first-class. You look at any list ranking great bosses, and you’ll undoubtedly find entries from their games. When it comes to surprising bosses, they were more unexpected in earlier entries, though some prove they’ve still got some new tricks.
In Sekiro, Genichiro defined the game as being the first boss to prove a real roadblock for players while also being the final boss to round things off. Except he wasn’t, really. While fighting him, you might’ve been thinking, is he incredibly weak, or have you really improved that much? But no worries, the blood-thirsty legend of his grandfather rises from his corpse to put you in your place.
5 Nioh 2 – William
The first (and arguably only) Soulslike games to truly understand what made From’s own games click were Team Ninja’s Nioh games. Set during the Sengoku period, they had you fighting alongside various Japanese figures of the time, all the while battling Yokai straight out of folk tales. The original had you play as Irishman William in an ending that was truly unique to him.
The sequel instead has you play as a custom character closely associated with Hideyoshi. Ultimately, childhood friendships end up tearing the nation apart, with you forced to kill your friend and seal the demon inside him away. That should’ve been where it ended until your eternal slumber was disturbed by William from the previous game.
4 Oblivion – Mehrunes Dagon
Bethesda’s games are well-known more for the community around them rather than the substance of the games themselves. They’re more about the tools within them to make smaller stories rather than the game as a cohesive whole.
In Oblivion, your journey is about protecting the real hero, Martin, heir to the Throne. So when you reach the final battle against Mehrunes Dagon, you may expect an epic battle to defend Martin and the Imperial City. Instead, Martin awakens as Dragonborn and does it himself. It can feel anticlimactic, yet it is perfectly in line with him being the hero.
3 Dragon’s Dogma – Grigori
Dragon’s Dogma opens immediately into conflict. You relive the days of the last appearance of the dragon Grigori, defeating him to bring peace to Gransys. You are then invited to create your character, only for Grigori to again appear and tear your heart out—cruel world.
So then your journey revolves around defeating Grigori. Should you turn down his offer, you must truly kill him, only to learn he is but a messenger. He was to test the heart of man, to see who could safeguard the world. Only then do you see the true character behind the curtain – the Seneschal and a whole postgame associated with them.
2 Final Fantasy 7 – Sephiroth
Of all the Final Fantasy games, and there are many, FF7 is easily the most prolific. There is so much media around it, and almost all of it centres around Sephiroth and Cloud’s dynamic. Except it tends to misportray it, as Sephiroth doesn’t actually view Cloud as all that special in the original.
Cloud is a failed clone of Sephiroth, causing him to be viewed by his pseudo-progenitor as a curious abnormality. Sephiroth is long dead, absorbed into the Lifestream, yet Cloud sees him constantly. So in that encounter, when you defeat him in the Lifestream, the real final battle for Cloud happens in his own head.
1 Dark Souls 3 – Sister Friede
Dark Souls 3 is a fascinating game to finish off the Souls trilogy. It plays it more safely than either of its predecessors to make a refined, if uninventive game. Even its first DLC, the Ashes of Ariandel, is simply a reimagined version of the Painted World of Ariamis from the original Dark Souls.
Yet the final boss of this DLC is maybe the funniest they have ever made. Not because she is literally humourous, but because she is ridiculously absurd. Once you defeat her, she enters a second phase—standard practice, and of course this time she’s much more difficult. You finally defeat her and Ariandel; they fade away, the music quietens, and you’re given a titanite slab. Ah, but then she rises once again, and your Estus flasks are empty. Time for a three-phase boss battle.
NEXT: Every Single Dark Souls 3 Boss In Order